Website Copyright: It Matters!
Last week, a colleague, who also is an RSS email subscriber to my site, told me they had copied a recent post and published it on their site. Because I also had helped them set up one of their blogs and coached them a little, I presumed that they meant they had syndicated my content using a WordPress plugin that had been recommended. However,because they said the word “copy”, it seemed like a good idea to ask a clarifying question. The subsequent conversation felt a little awkward and I am still trying to determine if they were simply naive or if it was something else.
What is a Web Copyright?
Every WordPress Website theme that I have created or customized includes code which places a default copyright in the footer. Summarizing an article on this topic that I read on Smashing Magazine, the same laws that protect printed copy also protect internet content. Since April 1, 1989, all published content is “automatically” copyrighted and it is not available for use in the public domain throughout the lifetime of its creator plus 70 years.
An idea cannot be copyrighted so, if something you’ve come across on the internet spurs a new post for your site, you are not breaching copyright law. You are allowed to cite excerpts from existing web content without crossing the line but you cannot replicate articles in their entirety without specific permission.
You also must have the permission of an author before you translate their content to another language.
The “fair use doctrine” is a doctrine in United States copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders, such as use for scholarship or review. It provides for the legal, non-licensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author’s work.
Website Owner Responsibilities
As I was researching this topic, I was enlightened on a topic that may be confusing. Web content is OWNED by the person who creates it. In other words, comments are owned by the commenter, not the website owner. Copyright law implies that you cannot alter content that is not owned by you and this may include removal of links, which is something that I have done myself.
This little nit will be covered in a terms and conditions statement on my website so that people who choose to comment about my posts are fully aware of my policies regarding links in comments.
Bottom Line: Blog Posts are not like Daylilies
In the patio garden behind a house where I used to live, I frequently gathered up Daylily volunteers from between the cracks in the retaining wall and replanted them in the garden bed where I actually wanted them to grow. That they were interested enough in survival to cast off volunteer plants any place that roots could take hold impressed me.
Bloggers are no different. We publish our content and send it out on RSS feeds, hoping to acquire new readership and engage our audience in such a way that they will tell their friends on the social network. We’re honored that you want others to know about our work, believe me.
Some of us put real research time into creating what we believe will be valuable and accurate content that we hope will be helpful to our target market. The whole idea of spending time on a blog post is to build authority for the business niche that we are endeavoring to grow. We want to help you but we don’t want to write your blogs for you. I make no apologies for saying that out loud and will happily engage in discussion about it with anyone whose opinion may differ.
Some very helpful people have directed me to authority sites on plagerism and copyright protection for my reference. Here are those links, should you also have an interest: